Youth political participation
An inclusive democracy means that all citizens should feel represented and heard, and with more than 3.5 billion people under the age of 30 living in the world today, young people play a crucial role in ensuring the political structures work for everyone.
But despite the passion and drive of many young people to make a difference, they are often excluded from the decision-making processes and remain one of the most underrepresented groups in parliaments. This is particularly true for young people from ethnic minorities and marginalized groups.
This is a significant problem given that some of the world’s toughest challenges disproportionately affect youth, including unemployment, environmental degradation, violent conflict, displacement, and insufficient access to education.
Harnessing the political potential of young people and promoting their participation at every level of the decision-making process is crucial if states are to ensure that policies addressing these challenges include the views and reflect the needs of their diverse populations.
At NIMD, youth participation is playing an increasingly central role in our programming, and we strive to find innovative ways to connect to a new generation of politicians and political activists. Our goal is to incorporate youth perspectives in decision-making, but also to make politicians more aware of the capacity and importance of young people.
Through our programmes, we aim to contribute to the active participation of all young people in society, regardless of their age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnic background, and help equip and encourage a new generation of political actors with democratic values.
We know that many young people want to contribute to developing more stable democracies and prosperous societies, and our approach focusses on equipping those people with the skills and knowledge to participate in politics and forge connections with decision makers.
But young people cannot achieve political success on their own. In many countries, the existing political infrastructure creates economic, cultural and social barriers to the participation of young people. That’s why we work to amplify the voices and skills of young people active in the political sphere – be it political activists, youth from political parties or young people from civil society organizations who aim to influence policy-making.
We facilitate dialogue on youth issues – both among young people and between young people and politicians. We also lobby and advocate for youth-sensitive policies so that actors throughout the political system understand that the ideas and leadership of young people will help overcome many of the challenges facing the world today.
The political participation of youth is included in the implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of all our programmes and policies, and we work to empower the leaders of the future while making sure all voices are represented today by:
- Equipping young people with the skills and knowledge to effectively participate in politics through our Democracy Schools, where the majority of students are under 35
- Fostering future cross-party cooperation and collaboration by bringing together youth members of different political parties and working on trust-building and networking
- Training youth organizations and civil society organizations to lobby and advocate on youth issues
- Supporting political parties in their ongoing efforts to better accommodate young people’s needs, with the goal of incorporating youth perspectives in decision-making and raising awareness of the capacity and importance of young people
- Lobbying for the inclusion of youth organizations and youth political representatives in multi-stakeholder dialogue sessions, and introducing youth political participation as a theme in dialogue platforms
- Facilitating dialogue between young people and senior political leadership, creating spaces for young people to interact with decision makers and build trust across generations
- Ensuring young people are provided with network-building and mentorship opportunities through interactions with decision-makers during Democracy Schools and alumni events
- Raising awareness and recognition of youth political participation by publishing research, launching media campaigns, and producing audio-visual products that harness the power of youth-orientated media such as social media, online networks, and art, music and theatre.
Increasing political participation among young people requires a holistic approach, with work on different levels and with different groups. That’s why NIMD is also a proud member of the The Youth Participation in Public Affairs programme of the EU’s Women and Youth in Democracy Initiative (WYDE). Funded by the European Union and led by the European Partnership for Democracy, this programme aims to bring together the knowledge and competencies of different organizations to improve the enfranchisement, empowerment, and inclusion of youth in all levels of democratic participation at the national, regional and global scales.
As part of this programme, the Youth Democracy Cohort, the European Democracy Youth Network (EDYN) and the European Partnership for Democracy have launched a handbook compiling good practices on youth participation, including a story on how NIMD supported young people to co-create youth policies in Guatemala through training and dialogue. The handbook aims to inspire governments and civil society to learn from and adopt these successful examples.
Youth political participation is part of our larger strategy on empowering marginalized and underrepresented groups in politics, which is one of NIMD’s main objectives. Targeting youth from rural areas, indigenous groups, the LGBTIQ+ community, people living with disabilities and women’s groups leads to more inclusive and diverse programming and initiatives, increasing tolerance and providing opportunities for a shared agenda.
In El Salvador, we ran a Democracy School for young people living with disabilities, empowering people who may face barriers to political participation by providing opportunities to network with other young people from across the political spectrum and pick up new knowledge and skills. Read more.
In 2020 NIMD Mali teamed up with the Malian blogging platform Benbere to launch the #MaTransition social media campaign, a hashtag for young people across the country to contribute their voice to the transition process after a coup d’état. Read more.
Meet The Team
Roxanne van der Bliek is NIMD's thematic lead on the topic of youth political participation. Roxanne is a young professional with a specialization in conflict, peace-building and political dialogue. The exclusion of young people’s voices has been a red line through Roxanne’s work. She has been involved in youth organizations for several years, working on youth issues at an international, national and local level. Roxanne has also worked on this topic at different political institutions, including the European Commission.